YORKSHIRE’s hopes of winning County Championship promotion suffered a setback yesterday although, paradoxically, their chances of winning the title increased.
Kent’s 222-run victory against Derbyshire at Canterbury created a logjam at the top of the Second Division, with just six points now separating leaders Derbyshire (173 points) from third-placed Kent (167), with Yorkshire in second position on 172 points and theoretically closer to going up as champions.
Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Kent are locked in a three-way battle for the two promotion places, with fourth-placed Hampshire all-but mathematically out of the running after their 122-run defeat against Essex at Southampton.
The last round of games sees Yorkshire face Essex at Chelmsford, Derbyshire entertain Hampshire at Derby, and Kent play Glamorgan at Cardiff, with the matches taking place from Tuesday to Friday.
Kent’s win yesterday, however, was more of a blow than a boost to Yorkshire, who would have needed only a maximum of four points at Chelmsford to guarantee promotion had Derbyshire held on, while Kent would have had to win their final fixture to have had any hope of overhauling Yorkshire.
As it was, Derbyshire’s second defeat of the summer means Yorkshire may have to win their last game to secure an immediate return to the top-flight.
Because the top of the table is so congested, and because teams can accrue up to 24 points from a Championship match, the permutations are so numerous that it would need an entire edition of the Yorkshire Post – along with a mathematics doctorate – to explain them in their head-spinning entirety.
Suffice to say that Yorkshire will definitely be promoted – win, lose or draw in the south-east – if they gain a minimum of one point and unless Kent better by a minimum of five points in South Wales their points total at Chelmsford.
The one advantage to Yorkshire of Kent’s win yesterday was that Yorkshire are now only one point off the top; had Derbyshire drawn, they would have been four points adrift.
Indeed, having led the division for much of the season, there is now a serious chance that Derbyshire might not get promoted at all – let alone clinch the title that was theirs for the taking.
Derbyshire had the cushion of a 19-point lead going into this week’s round, but Yorkshire’s eight-wicket win against Glamorgan, allied to Kent’s success yesterday, has seen that advantage significantly eroded.
While Derbyshire have had a draw and a defeat in their last two games, Yorkshire and Kent have won their last two matches to set up a nail-biting finale to the season.
Although Kent have the biggest deficit to make up, they also have the easiest game on paper against a Glamorgan side whose defeat at Headingley Carnegie sent them crashing to the foot of the league.
Derbyshire face a Hampshire team who realistically have nothing to play for but pride, which is not good news for Yorkshire or Kent.
The other imponderable is the great British weather, which has been not so great for much of the summer.
Next week’s forecast is once more unsettled, raising the possibility that bonus points and/or contrived finishes may ultimately determine the promotion picture.
Another factor to consider is what happens when teams finish level on points.
There are five tie-breakers to deal with such cases; in order of priority – most wins, fewest defeats, team achieving most points in contests between teams level on points, most wickets taken, most runs scored.
On that basis, for Yorkshire to win the title, they would have to hold off not only Kent but also gain two more points next week than Derbyshire.
If Yorkshire and Derbyshire finished level, Derbyshire would be placed higher by virtue of the fact they have won more games – currently five to four.
If Yorkshire and Kent finished level and gained an identical result next week, Yorkshire would squeeze out Kent by virtue of having suffered fewer defeats.
Both clubs have won four games, but whereas Kent have lost two of their fixtures, Yorkshire are, in fact, the only unbeaten team in the country this season, with 11 of their 15 matches having resulted in draws.
Hampshire face another year in Division Two barring the miracle of all miracles.
They are 24 points behind Yorkshire at present, so the only way they could go up is by beating Derbyshire with maximum points and if Yorkshire improbably took no points and Kent fewer than six, which would see Hampshire promoted on the most wins tie-breaker.
With bonus points likely to prove vital, it is worth reiterating how those are calculated.
A maximum of five batting bonus points and three bowling bonus points are available, awarded for performances in the first 110 overs of each side’s first innings.
Batting points are awarded as follows: one point (200-249 runs), two points (250-299), three points (300-349), four points (350-399), five points (400 runs or over).
Bowling points are distributed thus: one point (three-five wickets), two points (six-eight wickets), three points (nine-ten wickets).
In addition, sides gain 16 points for a win, three for a draw and eight in the rare event of a tie.